Here we show that glioblastoma express high levels of branched-chain amino acid transaminase 1 (BCAT1), the enzyme that initiates the catabolism of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Expression of BCAT1 was exclusive to tumors carrying wild-type isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) and IDH2 genes and was highly correlated with methylation patterns in the BCAT1 promoter region. BCAT1 expression was dependent on the concentration of ?-ketoglutarate substrate in glioma cell lines and could be suppressed by ectopic overexpression of mutant IDH1 in immortalized human astrocytes, providing a link between IDH1 function and BCAT1 expression. Suppression of BCAT1 in glioma cell lines blocked the excretion of glutamate and led to reduced proliferation and invasiveness in vitro, as well as significant decreases in tumor growth in a glioblastoma xenograft model. These findings suggest a central role for BCAT1 in glioma pathogenesis, making BCAT1 and BCAA metabolism attractive targets for the development of targeted therapeutic approaches to treat patients with glioblastoma.
Analysis at the single-cell level is essential for the understanding of cellular responses in heterogeneous cell populations, but it has been difficult to perform because of the strict requirements put on detection methods with regard to selectivity and sensitivity (i.e., owing to the cross-reactivity of probes and limited signal amplification). Here we describe a 1.5-d protocol for enumerating and genotyping mRNA molecules in situ while simultaneously obtaining information on protein interactions or post-translational modifications; this is achieved by combining padlock probes with in situ proximity ligation assays (in situ PLA). In addition, we provide an example of how to design padlock probes and how to optimize staining conditions for fixed cells and tissue sections. Both padlock probes and in situ PLA provide the ability to directly visualize single molecules by standard microscopy in fixed cells or tissue sections, and these methods may thus be valuable for both research and diagnostic purposes.
Protein-tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) are important regulators of signal transduction processes. Essential for the functional characterization of PTPs is the identification of their physiological substrates, and an important step towards this goal is the demonstration of a physical interaction. The association of PTPs with their cellular substrates is, however, often transient and difficult to detect with unmodified proteins at endogenous levels. Density-enhanced phosphatase-1 (DEP-1/PTPRJ) is a regulator of hematopoietic cell functions, and a candidate tumor suppressor. However, association of DEP-1 with any of its proposed substrates at endogenous levels has not yet been shown. We have previously obtained functional and biochemical evidence for a direct interaction of DEP-1 with the hematopoietic receptor-tyrosine kinase Fms-like tyrosine kinase-3 (FLT3). In the current study we have used the method of in situ proximity ligation assay (in situ PLA) to validate this interaction at endogenous levels, and to further characterize it. In situ PLA readily detected association of endogenous DEP-1 and FLT3 in the human acute monocytic leukemia cell line THP-1, which was enhanced by FLT3 ligand (FL) stimulation in a time-dependent manner. Association peaked between 10 and 20 min of stimulation and returned to basal levels at 30 min. This time course was similar to the time course of FLT3 autophosphorylation. FLT3 kinase inhibition and DEP-1 oxidation abrogated association. Consistent with a functional role of DEP-1-FLT3 interaction, stable knockdown of DEP-1 in THP-1 cells enhanced FL-induced ERK1/2 activation. These findings support that FLT3 is a bona fide substrate of DEP-1 and that interaction occurs mainly via an enzyme-substrate complex formation triggered by FLT3 ligand stimulation.
Gene expression - a key feature for modulating cell fate-is regulated in part by histone modifications, which modulate accessibility of the chromatin to transcription factors. Until now, protein-DNA interactions (PDIs) have mostly been studied in bulk without retrieving spatial information from the sample or with poor sequence resolution. New tools are needed to reveal proteins interacting with specific DNA sequences in situ for further understanding of the orchestration of transcriptional control within the nucleus. We present herein an approach to visualise individual PDIs within cells, based on the in situ proximity ligation assay (PLA). This assay, previously used for the detection of protein-protein interactions in situ, was adapted for analysis of target PDIs, using padlock probes to identify unique DNA sequences in complex genomes. As a proof-of-principle we detected histone H3 interacting with a 26 bp consensus sequence of the Alu-repeat abundantly expressed in the human genome, but absent in mice. However, the mouse genome contains a highly similar sequence, providing a model system to analyse the selectivity of the developed methods. Although efficiency of detection currently is limiting, we conclude that in situ PLA can be used to achieve a highly selective analysis of PDIs in single cells.
The ability to study proteins and protein interactions inside cells and tissues is important for elucidating how cells function in health and disease. The in situ proximity ligation assay (in situ PLA) presented here can be used to visualize proteins, protein-protein interactions, and post-translational modifications in cells and tissues. The method is based upon the use of antibodies that target the proteins involved in an interaction; hence, the method has the advantage that it can be used in clinical specimens, providing localized, quantifiable single molecule detection in single cells. This unit describes how in situ PLA can be used with fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry to study proteins (obtaining high sensitivity and specificity of detection) and protein interactions. It also includes information on expected results and information on how to troubleshoot the assay.
We have developed an approach for simultaneous detection of individual endogenous protein modifications and mRNA molecules in single cells in situ. For this purpose we combined two methods previously developed in our lab: in situ proximity ligation assay for the detection of individual protein interactions and -modifications and in situ detection of single mRNA molecules using padlock probes. As proof-of-principle, we demonstrated the utility of the method for simultaneous detection of phosphorylated PDGFR? and DUSP6/MKP-3 mRNA molecules in individual human fibroblasts upon PDGF-BB stimulation. Further we applied drugs disrupting the PDGFR? signaling pathway at various sites to show that this combined method can concurrently monitor the molecular effect of the drugs, i.e. inhibition of downstream signaling from the targeted node in the signaling pathway. Due to its ability to detect different types of molecules in single cells in situ the method presented here can contribute to a deeper understanding of cell-to-cell variations and can be applied to e.g. pinpoint effector sites of drugs in a signaling pathway.
Specific single-molecule detection opens new possibilities in genomics and proteomics, and automated image analysis is needed for accurate quantification. This work presents image analysis methods for the detection and classification of single molecules and single-molecule interactions detected using padlock probes or proximity ligation. We use simple, widespread, and cost-efficient wide-field microscopy and increase detection multiplexity by labeling detection events with combinations of fluorescence dyes. The mathematical model presented herein can classify the resulting point-like signals in dual-channel images by spectral angles without discriminating between low and high intensity. We evaluate the methods on experiments with known signal classes and compare to classical classification algorithms based on intensity thresholding. We also demonstrate how the methods can be used as tools to evaluate biochemical protocols by measuring detection probe quality and accuracy. Finally, the method is used to evaluate single-molecule detection events in situ.
An essential skill for every researcher is to learn how to select and apply the most appropriate methods for the questions they are trying to answer. With the extensive variety of methods available, it is increasingly important to scrutinize the advantages and disadvantages of these techniques prior to making a decision on which to use. In this article, we describe an approach to evaluate methods by reducing them into subcomponents. This is exemplified by a brief description of some commonly used proteomics methods. The same approach can also be used in method development by rearranging subcomponents in order to create new methods, as demonstrated with the development of proximity ligation assays (PLAs). PLA is a method as designed in our laboratory for detection of proteins, protein-protein interactions and post-translational modifications. Fundamentally, protein-recognition events are converted into detectable DNA molecules. The technique uses protein-DNA conjugates as binders for the targets of interest. Binding of two or more conjugates to the target results in assembly of an assay-specific DNA molecule. Subsequent amplification of the DNA molecule generates a signal that can be detected using PCR, for detection of minute amounts of proteins in serum, or standard fluorescence microscopy for detection of protein-protein interactions in tissue sections. Lastly, we apply the approach of recombining subcomponents to develop a few novel hypothetical methods hoping this might stimulate the readers to utilize this approach themselves.
The WRAP53 gene gives rise to a p53 antisense transcript that regulates p53. This gene also encodes a protein that directs small Cajal body-specific RNAs to Cajal bodies. Cajal bodies are nuclear organelles involved in diverse functions such as processing ribonucleoproteins important for splicing. Here we identify the WRAP53 protein as an essential factor for Cajal body maintenance and for directing the survival of motor neuron (SMN) complex to Cajal bodies. By RNA interference and immunofluorescence we show that Cajal bodies collapse without WRAP53 and that new Cajal bodies cannot be formed. By immunoprecipitation we find that WRAP53 associates with the Cajal body marker coilin, the splicing regulatory protein SMN, and the nuclear import receptor importin?, and that WRAP53 is essential for complex formation between SMN-coilin and SMN-importin?. Furthermore, depletion of WRAP53 leads to accumulation of SMN in the cytoplasm and prevents the SMN complex from reaching Cajal bodies. Thus, WRAP53 mediates the interaction between SMN and associated proteins, which is important for nuclear targeting of SMN and the subsequent localization of the SMN complex to Cajal bodies. Moreover, we detect reduced WRAP53-SMN binding in patients with spinal muscular atrophy, which is the leading genetic cause of infant mortality worldwide, caused by mutations in SMN1. This suggests that loss of WRAP53-mediated SMN trafficking contributes to spinal muscular atrophy.
Interactions between members of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family mediates cellular responses to ligand stimulation. Measurement of these interactions could provide important information and may prove useful as prognostic markers in malignancy. Therefore, to develop methods to study these interactions in genetically unmodified cells, such as clinical samples, in a sensitive and selective way, with good statistical accuracy, is important. The in situ proximity ligation assay (in situ PLA) was used to quantify homo- and heteromeric interactions between EGFR and HER2 in cultured cells, using flow cytometry as the readout method. Cells were monitored for changes in dimerization patterns and phosphorylation status upon stimulation. The different cell lines displayed varying amounts of interactions between EGFR and HER2, but the amount of dimerization was not found to be affected significantly upon stimulation by EGF. Activation of EGFR could be visualized by in situ PLA, but not by immunofluorescence staining. In situ PLA was successfully used to study receptor dimerization and activation of the EGF-receptor family with high selectivity and sensitivity. The combination of in situ PLA and flow cytometry provided a statistically powerful way of analyzing protein-protein interactions and post-translational modifications on a single-cell basis.
A tumor does not consist of a homogenous population of cancer cells. Therefore, to understand cancer, the tumor microenvironment and the interplay between the different cell types present in the tumor has to be taken into account, and how this regulates the growth and survival of the cancer cells. To achieve a full picture of this complex interplay, analysis of tumor tissue should ideally be performed with cellular resolution, providing activity status of individual cells in this heterogeneous population of different cell-types. In addition, in situ analysis provides information on the architecture of the tissue wherein the cancer cells thrive, providing information of the identity of neighboring cells that can be used to understand cell-cell communication. Herein we describe how padlock probes and in situ PLA can be used for visualization of nucleic acids and protein activity, respectively, directly in tissue sections, and their potential future role in personalized medicine.
Heparan sulfate proteoglycans regulate key steps of blood vessel formation. The present study was undertaken to investigate if there is a functional overlap between heparan sulfate proteoglycans and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans during sprouting angiogenesis.
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